A/N - Sorry this is a bit long, but this chapter really can't be split it two because how fast this first part moves.
SEPTEMBER 23, 2552 (04:50) [Military Calendar]
4401 St. CHRISTOPHER WAY, RESIDENCE OF JOHN MERCER
NEW TICONDEROGA, TARRAKUS SYSTEM, SECTOR 419
Johnathan Mercer sat silently on the edge of his bed listening to his wife breath slowly in her sleep. Looking down, he read the response to his resignation. He was denied, but it had included something he would call unexpected. He has been promoted to the rank of Commander. The one thing he did not expect with that was being assigned to a new ship after loosing the Columbia a year ago. Since it came in two hours ago, he has been staring at it. He is to report to Admiral Strickland’s office tomorrow to get his official debriefing of the command duration, and to pick out his command crew.
He just was not sure if this was his reward for saving some lives, or punishment for mutiny against his Commanding officer. The only thing he had expected in the case he was reassigned was to be placed under a Commander or Admiral, or given the keys to a refueler not a Endurance Class vessel. Mercer had served on the Buran when it was still a training vessel. They were giant, fast, but not exactly the best at fighting in space engagements. Military vessels had moved beyond her. Feeling his wife, Sarah, shift in the bed, he turned his heads to see her blue eyes staring at her.
“Still nervous?” Nodding she grabbed the PAD from his hand and put it on her nightstand before rubbing his back gently. “It’s where you belong. You were never meant to be on the ground, you practically lived in space for twenty years.” His wife knew him to well, they had married after he was transferred from the Omicron to a station temporarily where they built their family. Their sons had been born there. Then he left for the Columbia for six years. While he was stationed there, he managed to get home for a few months at a time watching his sons get older and bigger through the years. Personally, he enjoyed being home. His wife had given that all up so she could be there for their sons. Rather than being a Navigation Specialist, she had taken a desk job teaching at the Academy here on New Ticonderoga for those wishing to enter West Point, or just to serve on a vessel in general.
“Didn’t your father serve on the Endurance’s sister ship?” The old INC-57 the Excalibur was his father’s ship. It was lost with all hands when he was ten years old, it was presumed a mechanical accident as they lost contact with her when she jumped. “Plus, how long is this assignment?”
“Nine months.” He spoke. While its temporary, he expects this to become a permanent assignment. “After this, I think I might retire, take a desk job. Maybe teach at the Academy.” Turning around he threw his legs onto the bed. “I want to spend more time here with you. Naval life is hard, and I want to be here for our sons. My father wasn’t able to, and my grandpa never really was emotionally available.”
Smiling at him, his wife kissed him before reaching into his boxers. “Or maybe, just have some sex.”
Smiling he leaned in for a passionate kiss, cupping her face with his hands as they both struggled to get out of their clothes.
_ _ _
Mercer awoke in the morning life with his wife wrapped in his arms. It had been a while since they had time to have sex, in the past year they had made up for the lost time while he was away. Plus, kids always served as a good deterrent. They both were paranoid that they would run into the room while they were doing the deed.
However, as he thought about it, he was holding himself back. She was right that he belonged in space. But he was torn whether to come home permanently, or keep fighting for what is right, to give his sons a chance at piece. While he might not see that day, he hopes his sons will. He rolled over onto his back and looked at the alarm clock as it was already 10:20.
As he started to wake up, he heard a banging at the door.
“The fuck?” Rolling his eyes, he quickly threw some pants and a t-shirt on as he sauntered down the stairs into the foyer. Opening the doors, he saw a man with distinct green eyes.
“Admiral Forest…” Looking at his old Professor, and father figure from when he was at Michael Lewis Academy for Military Sciences. “Come in.” He said gesturing his old mentor to enter the house. “So, what brings you out here?” The two both walked into the kitchen.
“Well as it turns out Sandra was called back to New Haven for a emergency debriefing and considering I am the person who gets the assignments, I figured I should be the one to run it through you.” Nodding, Mercer looked at him.
“I see…” Admiral Forest handed him a PADD which was loaded with all the necessary information.
“I have created a list of officers who I think would make good additions to your crew. You will have an Observer onboard.” Shrugging his shoulders, he looked at Forest. Mercer suspected that they would have someone watching his very movements.
“So, the Admiralty doesn’t trust me?” Shaking his head Forest gave him a look indicating that was not the case. “Not an Admiral?”
“Not anymore. The observer is former Admiral Hoshino.” As Mercer took a sip of water he coughed up as he looked at him. He knew the name as well as anyone. Hoshino was a legend. “Now, here’s the deal…” said Admiral Forest as he rubbed the back of his neck. “I think you should know before your final assignment comes in. I am the person who assigned you to the Spirit of Endurance.”
“Oh.” It was the only word that came out of his mouth. He was not sure what to say. It was like a stab in the back. “I see.”
“Look, I know it’s known what you wanted, and if you want, you can forfeit your position right now, and I can assign a different Commander to her.” Shaking his head, he did not want that. Mercer knew he was one of the most qualified to take Command of a ship like her. Most who are younger than her do not know the ins and outs of older vessels like the Endurance, nor do they have the experience. While some of them might hold the rank of Colonel, they might have been a second officer for a longer period than he was but never got the privilege to sit in the captain’s chair, making the hard decisions that are necessary to make a Commander – to choose who lives and who dies. “If that is what you want?”
“No. If there’s a person who is qualified to Command a ship like her, its me.” Said Mercer as he looked at Forest.
“That was surprising!” Exclaimed Forest. He probably expected him to decline the offer, to tuck his tail between his legs and retreat like a coward… Is that what he is? “I was seriously not expecting that.”
“I think that’s what a lot of people expected from me. Thing is, I need to make this world a better place. Not just for me, but for my sons. I’m tired of this fucking war, and we need to stop all the fighting.” Forest looked at him with a solemn look, they all were in this together. Every man, women, and child were in this fight together, on both sides. “So, I’ll take the PADD.” Handing him the tablet, Mercer took it into his hands opening the tablet to its most recent document he looked at it.
“As you see the ship is nearly as original as the day she came out of dry dock. There’s a few modifications that Hoshino cleared, oddly enough the last CO of the Endurance left his standing orders in place.” Looking over it, John looked as his wife came into the room her hair washed and already dressed for the day – not that they were doing much.
“So, what are you discussing?”
“Nothing much, just the preliminary rundown of the Endurance.” Pressing a button on the tablet it opened to the crew recommendations. “You’re recommending Hathem Baxter?”
“Yes, he’s a good navigation specialist, grade 2.” Shaking his head, he refused down right. He knew Baxter was good, good, but he also nearly jumped their ship into the middle of a moon when they were in training. He did not trust him as a result.
“I have a few names.” Implied Mercer.
“Go ahead.” Motioned Forest.
“Elizabeth Kellen, she’s a grade 1 specialist, as I recall last year, she finished her dissertation on trans-spacial instability. I went through Michael Lewis with her, if there is a person besides my wife I trust with my life. Its her.” Sarah reached down into the drawer and pulled out a pad of paper before writing down Elizabeth’s name. “The other is Gregory Walden, grade 2, I served with him on the Buran. Finally, there is a Michelle U, also grade 1, but I have not heard anything about her in quite some time.” Hearing the paper rip from the pad, Sarah gave John the paper with the names on them.
“Sir, if there’s anyone, I trust with my husband’s life, personally its Elizbeth Kellen. As I recall she is a Quantum Drive specialist as well.” Nodding, Admiral Forest took the paper from Sarah smiling.
“I guess that settles on who your Navigation Officer will be. As for your XO, its kind of up in the air, but Charles McBatten is available right now, one thing…” Forest gritted his teeth, he obviously was not a fan of him. “He’s been bottlenecked in rank. So, you’re looking as a Colonel who is as old as me.”
“Your joking…” Mercer looked over his service record, most was covered in black ink indicating that he served for a time within Intelligence, or the most mysterious Ghosts. “Has command experience, served on the Horatio…” glancing down at the file he saw one specific posting. “Served as second in command to my father. According to this he was transferred to the Franklin after that. There’s a couple of other ships. Pretty inconsistent at best.”
Forest smiled at him; he was glad that he read over who his number one could be.
“He goes where he thinks he is needed.” Furrowing his eyebrows, Mercer looked at Forest and cocked his heads.
“He thinks I need him?”
“I’ll take him.” Smiling, Admiral Forest looked at Mercer with kind and gentle eyes, glad that McBatten was his choice in his XO. “Plus, he has more ships on his records than I have ever seen. Plus, I might dig into my dads’ personal logs see what he has to say about him.”
“I’ll bring them out of storage. Mind you, some will be redacted.” Nodding, Mercer knew full well that there would be redacted personal logs, every officer gets them time to time, usually when they are doing off-the-books missions.
All three of them turned their heads as they watched the two boys run down the stairs.
“Well looks like the two rascals are awake.” Said John smiling.
“Uncle Forest!” The two boys ran into Admiral Forests arms. He has been as much of a Uncle to them as he was a father to Johnathan. While he did not have his father for much of his life, when he was at the Academy, he was both a father figure and mentor. When it came time to decide who would be God parents to them, they offered Forest the position which he took in an instant. The other one was Kellen. She was too happy to oblige as well. “How are you two?”
“Good!” Said Ian. The two boys loved it when Forest sent small gifts to them from Earth, it was rare when they got anything that was made off world. When they were little Johnathan would bring back stuff from the various outposts he visited.
“What are you doing back here?” Asked William.
“Visiting your dad about a job position. He’ll fill you in.” Said Forest. “Sadly, I don’t have anything this time, but I will make sure I do next time.” The two boys smiled and looked at each other at the same time creating a near perfect mirror image. Forest stood up and looked at them. “Well, I need to be going, I have a meeting in a few hours. As for you, relax and enjoy.” Forest walked over to the door before freezing in place. “Crap. One last thing.” He reached into his pocket and threw Mercer a box. “Your father would want you to have those.” Closing the door behind him, the two boys quickly flanked Jonathan asking what was inside.
Looking at the blue velvet box, he opened it and saw two pips sitting side by side. They were gold, a design which has been phased out for fake alternatives.
“Wow!” Exclaimed Ian eagerly. “What are they?”
“Rank insignia.” Kneeling, Mercer looked at his sons. While they truly were not biologically his they were still his son. “I got a new posting.” His two sons both had opposite reactions, one was excited, the other sad. “Now, here is the thing, space is huge, I’ll be extremely far from home. You can write to me, and I’ll make sure to pick up something from the Frontier.”
“Will it be dangerous?” Asked Ian.
“I won’t lie, so yes, space is dangerous.” An idea quickly spawned into Johnathan’s brain to help quell Ian’s worries. While William was less worried, he knew both would conceivably freak out when he leaves in a few months, so he knew there was one thing to help. “I’ll be right back.” Quickly leaving his sons for a moment, he sprinted up the stairs and pulled out his old trunk, most of it was made up of old books from his academy days, but there were a few things from his childhood he kept. One was a model of his father’s ship, the Excalibur, while it was not the Endurance, he was sure they would love it. Pulling it out, he brushed the dust off the model before bringing it down to the kitchen.
Johnathan entered the kitchen holding the heavily worn model before kneeling down Infront of Ian who had begun to look visibly distraught. “I think you should have this.”
Ian took the model into his hands and looked at it, smiling a bit.
“Is this your ship?”
“No, but it was my fathers, see here Excalibur?” His son nodded, sniffling a bit from his crying. He could not blame him. His son was six years old! While both were identical twins, both had a completely different demeanor. William tried his best to be the more mature one, even though he really could not be one. “My ship looks just like this old one. Its name is the Spirit of Endurance, and she is old. So old in fact your great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather commanded her, just like me.”
“She’s good then?” Asked William.
“Oh yes, particularly good. Seen a lot of battles, it just means she can beat everything.” Ian looked up and smiled at him.
“Isn’t this grandpas ship?” Nodding Johnathan looked at his two sons.
“Didn’t he die on her?”
“Well, we don’t know. But let me tell you this, these ships are some of the bests ever built, and right here?” He said pointing towards the middle of the front end of the ship. “Is the safest part of the ship, and where I will work from.” Ian nodded looking more relieved while William in his own natural state wanted to know more about the ship than most kids. Johnathan suspects one day he will probably be a Naval architect.
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